Judy Miller went to jail because — well — she wanted to. That is the inescapable conclusion of a close reading of reports on Ms. Miller’s release in both the Washington Post and Ms. Miller’s own paper.

Miller has been enjoying bad food in an Arlington jail for refusing to reveal her source for information about Valerie Plame, the former CIA undercover agent whose hubby, Amb. Joseph Wilson IV is a vocal critic of the Bush administration. But now it appears that her source, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, was practically begging her not to go to jail.

The Post reports:

“Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said yesterday that he told Miller attorney Floyd Abrams a year ago that Libby’s waiver was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify. He said last night that he was contacted by Bennett several weeks ago, and was surprised to learn that Miller had not accepted that representation as authorization to speak with prosecutors.

“‘We told her lawyers it was not coerced,’ Tate said. ‘We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration.'”

Libby reiterated in a telephone call last week that the waiver he gave prosecutors permitting them to ask reporters about conversations with him was not coerced. It also appears that Libby did not need to be protected. Miller had asked why Wilson had been selected to go to Nigeria and check administration assertions that Iraq had sought to buy uranium there. Libby said the White House was trying to find the answer to the same question and was working with the CIA.

In a second conversation, Libby reportedly told Miller that Wilson’s wife “had something to do with” selecting him for the mission, but he did not know her name or where she was employed. This hardly amounts to blowing the cover on an undercover agent — that is the issue being investigated by a special prosecutor.

Miller has been a pariah in the journalism biz lately — she believed that there would be WMDs in Iraq and wrote as much. Could the jailbird stunt have been an attempt to regain prestige within her profession by playing the martyr?

Miller’s own words sound as if this might be the case. The Post quotes her statement: “It’s good to be free,” Miller said in a statement last night. “I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source….I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter.”

Judy Miller had no real reason to go to jail. That, in fact, should have been the headline on today’s stories. I can see why the Times didn’t play up the fake martyr angle but the Post had no reason to avoid the truth.